Notwithstanding widespread adoption of diversity and inclusion initiatives and increased awareness of the challenges women and people of color face in their advancement, little progress has been made in recent years with respect to diversity within the legal profession. The legal profession remains homogeneous, dominated by a single race and gender. Though increased attention has been placed on bias and discrimination within the profession, no appreciable increases in the representation of women and diverse attorneys has occurred. As such, this article argues that feedback bias plays a critical role in perpetuating the lack of women and people of color within the profession, particularly within leadership positions.
This article first provides an understanding of how bias manifests in feedback, why it matters and how it plays out in legal education and in the workplace. Next, this article highlights the science and evidence that demonstrate feedback bias; the common types of feedback-related bias; and the natural discomfort with engaging in difficult conversations across gender and racial lines. Finally, this article focuses on how to identify and avoid biased feedback within the legal profession, proposing ten concrete strategies for faculty and employers to employ – all of which, if implemented, will to ensure accurate assessment of law students’ and lawyers’ performance and facilitation of their ultimate success.